It’s no secret that tech is moving fast. But perhaps not since the advent of the Internet has the travel industry felt innovation’s effects so strongly. So what should travel companies and tourism departments make sure they stay up to date on?
First up: It’s true. Robots are taking over.
Travel bots are powered by artificial intelligence, and they’re programmed to predict and answer any question about a trip that travelers can dream up. The few that have started to surface in recent years have been fairly basic, but that’s not going to be true for long. Soon, they’ll be able to help users with everything from booking to recommending future trips based on their interests and schedules.
This means the age of optimizing for the search bar is coming to an end. The rise of AI assistants like Siri and Alexa has changed the way people look for travel ideas and deals, and if destinations want to stay at the top of travelers’ minds, they’re going to need to start playing by a different set of rules.
You knew this was coming: Virtual reality.
Unless you live under a rock or just awoke from a half-decade snooze, you’re probably familiar with the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Google Cardboard and the slew of similar devices that have hit the market recently. Gaming may have been the driving force behind the most popular headsets’ development, but they provide exciting opportunities for marketers in just about every industry, including – and especially – travel.
All it takes is five seconds on Oculus’ site to see why the two are so inextricably linked: “You’ll feel like you’re really there.” “Unmatched immersion.” New tech has the ability to instantly put users anywhere in the world – and the “sensation of presence” is only going to get more convincing.
Last year, Virgin Holidays used Google Cardboard to capture the sights and sounds of one of their Mexico resorts, offering users the chance to get a taste before planning their trip. Surprise, surprise: Trips to the resort (and the company’s sales overall) increased “phenomenally.”
Before you buy that Vive and upload all your properties, pump the brakes. VR can be an incredibly useful tool, but substance still beats flash. Travel companies should be mindful not to lean on new tech too heavily, instead incorporating it into existing strategies.
All this tech talk is pretty exciting.
Robots! Instant “trips” across the world! But the most important piece of the travel industry is people, and it’s vital to keep in mind how new tech is changing travelers themselves. So far, it’s making them more demanding and more impatient. The increased popularity and functionality of travel apps means that 44% of travelers expect to be able to plan their trip with a few taps of their smartphone. If your site isn’t up to snuff, sorry – they’re going somewhere that’s easier to get to.
Speaking of smartphones.
Whether we’re talking airlines, hotels, rental cars or cities themselves, Apple’s old iPhone tagline rings true: there’s an app for that. You probably stopped by the App Store to download at least one on your last trip, but don’t get used to them. Travel apps are changing fast, and artificial intelligence will be instrumental in taking them to the next level. Instead of resources, they’ll become companions, predicting the unique needs of travelers and helping them get more out of their trip.
The best part about all this tech? By the time you’ve got it all figured out, something none of us predicted will come along.
Personally, we can’t wait.